12 hospitalised as mystery intoxication strikes again in French town

Investigations into the possible source have so far proved fruitless. Carbon monoxide poisoning, food poisoning, and air pollution have been ruled out

All those hospitalised have now returned home, but the source of intoxication remains a mystery

Nine children and three adults have been hospitalised with a mystery intoxication in north-eastern France, a few weeks after around 30 people fell ill with “identical symptoms” in the same place.

The new hospitalisations were reported on June 20, in Fère-Champenoise (Marne, Grand Est). 

Nursery school pupils were this time among those hospitalised, whereas before only primary-school age children were affected. Seven of these young children "were taken to the Châlons-en-Champagne hospital", the Marne prefecture said in a press release.

Gérard Gorisse, the mayor of Fère-Champenoise - a 2,200-resident small town - has said that everyone hospitalised is now doing well.

“All the victims who were hospitalised yesterday have now gone home after a check by doctors,” he told BFMTV.

Mystery symptoms

The patients all reported the same symptoms including throat irritation, feeling out of breath and not able to catch your breath, and ‘feeling a heaviness’ around you, said Mr Gorisse.

These symptoms also matched those reported in late May/early June.

Investigations into the possible source of the intoxication have so far proved fruitless, but several hypotheses have been ruled out. These include carbon monoxide poisoning, contamination of a water fountain, industrial air poisoning, and food poisoning.

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“We are still unsure, we have no answers and no certainty,” said the mayor.

"We have the equipment to measure the air outside and in the elementary and nursery classrooms. We have ruled out several things, including carbon monoxide and other pollution that could have been possible in the environment with industrial sites. 

“It’s still a mystery,” he said.

Air quality assessments

The local health authority, the Agence Régionale de Santé, has provided the mayor with air quality monitors and sensors, in a bid to determine if there is a risk of intoxication in future.

The Marne prefecture said that "initial results have enabled us to assess and eliminate the risks associated with almost 80 substances" in the outside air, and to ensure that the air inside the primary and nursery schools "complies with the standards in force”.

Investigations are also still continuing into the intoxications reported in May/early June.